New 2012 Toyota 86 review | first drive

Everything comes to those who wait, it’s said. And Toyota fans have been waiting a long time for passion to return to the brand.

It’s been eight years since Toyota killed off its last rear-drive MR2 and the affordable and stylish – although often maligned with hairdresser references – Celica sports car. So the Toyota 86 holds the promise of disrupting the seemingly endless roll-out of anodyne wheeled whitegoods – for which the boss Akio Toyoda publicly apologised not long after taking the top chair.

And as a highly-publicised joint project with Subaru –  it should also be more than the sum of each brand’s best. Is it everything the waiting fans want? Well, yes. And not quite.


The aim was always to make the 86 affordable, and the starting price for the manual 86 GT is $29,990 -- a stunning $10,000 less than anybody guessed --  and the 86 GTS starting at $35,490. The auto is $2000 more.

Standard interior kit includes all the expected mod-cons, and the becoming-expected features like voice recognition. There’s a sporty three-spoke steering wheel – the smallest on any Toyota – and touches of sporty fabric (think wetsuits) on shift and brake levers. On the 86 GTS look for 17-in alloys with full-size alloy spare wheel, auto-levelling high-intensity headlights and front foggies. 

It has keyless entry and start, and in-cabin goodies include red-stitched leather/alcantara upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone aircon and a higher-spec wheel. The premium audio/comms system is worth a special mention, with the 6.1-in touchscreen also serving up satnav, SD card slot and SMS/email text-to-voice. 

As an affordable, rear-drive 2+2 stylish sports car -- especially at this price -- it’s hard to find other apples to compare against. There’s plenty of choice in rear-drive two-seaters, but buyers looking for an affordable one will have already bought the Mazda MX-5. That leaves you waiting to see what happens with the Toyota’s clone -- the Subaru BRZ -- or looking at front and all-wheel drive options. 

Ranging in a tight price-tag scale between $38,990 and $40,700, you get some desirable front-drive choices: RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup, Volkswagen Golf GTi, Mazda3 MPS and Mini Cooper S would be at the top of the list. In that range you also get the AWD Subaru Impreza WRX hatch. And handing over another $7000 or so gets you into the Volkswagen Scirocco R. And if the Honda Civic Type R spotted in testing last week comes to our showrooms, there’ll be another to consider.


It makes the most of a small body to give a fairly useful capacity. Nobody wants to be in the rear seat of any two-plus-two coupe for long, but it offers more flexibility – we won’t say practicality – than a two-seater. It’s a well-proportioned headturner, and one of the few cars that looks good from the rear at this price. Make that most price levels. Key cabin cues are the small steering wheel and large tacho, the GTS’s mandatory aluminium pedals and sill plates, a charmingly old-school frameless rearview mirror and tacky carbon ‘fibber’ accents. There are some miscues.


It’s case of who did what. Subaru donated the basic engineering, including both the chassis and the engine – chosen because its compact size allowed it to be mounted low and towards the rear of the bay. The naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre flat-four engine has an appetite for revs, with the peak 147kW of power hitting at 7000rpm and peak 205Nm of torque at 6400-6600rpm. It’s aided by Toyota’s latest D-4S fuel-injection system with separate twin injectors delivering high pressure on the direct combustion chamber and low pressure on intake port duties. The system’s ability to mix and match fuel delivery is claimed to add 10kW and 20Nm more than would have been possible with port-injection. 

There’s been special – and very un-Toyota attention – paid to the engine, induction and exhaust sound. And drivers get to hear the end result, with induction sound being piped back into the cabin via a rubber tube. Toyota also brought the new six-speed manual and sequential auto transmissions – the latter with paddle-shifters and some Lexus IS-F input for sharper shifts and a few bars of downchange blips to hum along with in Sport mode. Porsche’s Cayman 2+2 coupe was used as the benchmark for steering and handling, with the stiff and low-squatting 86 underpinned by MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension.


Not tested here yet, but will be hunting a full five-star ANCAP rating. Equipment includes seven airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction and five-mode stability controls.


With an endless conga-line of marketing blather as every car goes on sale, you can’t help becoming sceptical about any carmaker’s statement. Especially when it’s Toyota promising passion. But just about every box has been ticked and promise delivered – many more than we expected. The 86 is alive and kick-arse.

Steering feel is excellent, with good weighting and feedback. The car feels taut and agile, turning in nimbly and gripping the road aggressively. The six-speed manual is one of the best around: short, sweet and snickety. Even hardened stick-shunners could be won over by this one. It gets off the line smartly, and delivers decent in-gear acceleration, despite there not being any sense of huge torque on tap.

The in-car soundtrack improves once you push it up above 3500rpm, but apart from that the engine noise is subdued and it’s the tyres you hear. That aside, it’s nearly everything most people could want in terms of bang for the buck. But you can’t help thinking some turbo effort boost the fun. There have been spy shots of the Subaru version testing in Europe with a turbo-hinting bonnet bulge, but Toyota is keeping their version on the pure path.


Full of fun and few flaws. Toyota is on a winner with this one. Get in quick or miss out.

Toyota 86

Price: from $29,990
Engine: 2.0-litre boxer four-cylinder, 147kW/205Nm
Transmission: six-speed manual, six-speed auto, RWD
Fuel economy:  7.8L/100km (7.1L auto)   98RON
0-100km/h: 7.6 secs (8.2 auto)


RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup
Price: from $38,990
Engine: 147.5kW/215Nm 2.0-litre inline four-cyl
Transmission: six-speed manual, FWD
Fuel economy: 8.2L/100km, 195g/km CO2
0-100km/h: 6.9 secs

Volkswagen Golf GTi
Price: from $38,990 ($41,490 auto)
Engine: 155kW/280Nm 2.0-litre turbo inline four-cyl
Transmission: six-speed manual (six-speed DSG), FWD
Fuel economy: 7.7L/100km (7.6) 180g/km (178) CO2
0-100km/h: 6.9 secs (6.9)

Mazda3 MPS
Price: from $39,490
Engine: 190kW/380Nm 2.3-litre turbo inline four-cyl
Transmission: six-speed manual
Fuel economy: 9.9L/100km, 235g/km CO2
0-100km/h: 6.1 secs

Subaru Impreza WRX hatch
Price: from $39,990
Engine: 195kW/343Nm 2.5-litre turbo flat four
Transmission: five-speed manual, AWD
Fuel economy: 10.4L/100km, 247g/km CO2
0-100km/h: 5.3 secs

Mini Cooper S
Price: from $40,700 (auto $43,050)
Engine: 135kw/240Nm 1.6-litre turbo inline four-cyl
Transmission: six-speed manual (six-speed sports auto) FWD
Fuel economy: 6.3L/100km (6.7)  146g/km (155) CO2
0-100km/h: 7 secs (7.2)

Volkswagen Scirocco R
Price: from $47,490 (auto $49,990)
Engine: 188kW/330Nm 2.0-litre turbo inline four-cyl
Transmission: six-speed manual, (six-speed sports auto) FWD
Fuel economy: 8.1L/100km (8.2), 189g/km (192) CO2
0-100km/h: 6.2 secs (6.0)


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